The TRUE Africa 100 is our list of innovators, opinion-formers, game-changers, pioneers, dreamers and mavericks who we feel are shaping the Africa of today and tomorrow. We’re featuring them over 100 days and we’ve asked them all three questions.
John Hunt is an award-winning playwright, author and creative director. A co-founder of advertising company TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris he has been involved in a number of high-profile campaigns, including working closely on Nelson Mandela’s first ANC election campaign. In 2003 he became the creative director of TBWA Worldwide and is now based in his native South Africa. John has also written a number of plays and books for which he has received wide acclaim.
You delve into contemporary South Africa in your latest book The Space Between the Space Between. Where do you see the country heading?
I think South Africa is at a delicate crossroads. Sometimes I feel we’re such a young democracy, we’re not too sure what to do with it. It’s exciting and massively interesting that we’re a work in progress but I feel the country lacks a clear vision of what it wants to be. The heady days of Mandela are long gone and those big shoes have been filled by tiny feet.
I believe if South Africa doesn’t find its direction over the next five years we will have done our children a huge disservice.
I believe if the country doesn’t find its direction over the next five years we will have done our children a huge disservice. This country has incredible potential. It’s full of smart and generous people but it’s not aligned, so not enough is achieved.
Who’s better placed to conquer the African market: big foreign brands or home-grown talent?
Foreign brands offer you scale and a bigger wallet but they often don’t have the local insights. They arrive with pre-determined views based on American or European models. And no matter how many times you say it, they often still perceive Africa as a single homogenous market. Distribution is also often misunderstood, the so called ‘informal sector’ often being under valued because it’s difficult to get hard statistics to validate its size.
It goes without saying that you also need transparent financials monitored every step of the way.
Obviously, it depends on the sector but it seems to me if you could have the capital injection of foreign investment being driven by smart, local management in a joint venture, then you probably have the right ingredients for success. It goes without saying that you also need transparent financials monitored every step of the way.
Who’s your African of the year?
My African of the year would have to be Thuli Madonsela. She is South Africa’s Public Protector, a human rights lawyer and a equality expert. Her credentials are impeccable. She clearly believes in the adage of talking truth to power. She is not scared of tackling the tough questions and handles the inevitable backlash with remarkable grace and poise.
She reminds us that although Africa is always a rollercoaster ride, we should never forget the principles of basic honesty and that we are all equal before the law. She is proof that we should not become cynical nor should we bend and buckle because those in power feel that is an appropriate attitude.
Follow TBWA Worldwide on Twitter @TBWA
Come back tomorrow for the next TRUE Africa 100 and keep up to date using the hashtag #TRUEAfrica